The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management


Anam Latif

The shifting sands of humanitarian assistance: frames, perceptions and enactment in the age of regime complexity

School research theme: Management of projects
Research supervisor: Dr Stefano Miraglia
Start date: September 2018

My research proposes:

  • To investigate the dynamics and role of regime complexity in shaping the frames, perceptions and enactment of project professionals through the lens of three theories: Complexity theory, Regime theory and Game theory.
  • To illustrate and explore the impact of nested, parallel and overlapping regimes and international strategies on the management and implementation of humanitarian assistance projects.

Humanitarian agencies are often the first to witness disasters, conflicts, war and humanitarian crises. The 21st century saw an unprecedented increase and overlap in the institutionalisation of humanitarian organisations and frameworks. These humanitarian organisations, constituting governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental agencies, are governed by the codes and guidelines of the Geneva Convention, ICRC and principles of International Humanitarian Law. This inclusion and proliferation of multilateral regimes and treaties in the humanitarian landscape has resulted in the creation of a competitive and intertwined complex often referred to as the 'international regime complexity'.

These complex regimes do not follow a strictly linear approach to evolve nor does it work in a hierarchical manner. Rather states or international organisations enter into agreements which in turn are translated as legislations and implemented by administrative agencies and actors of local organisations. These laws and interventions are reviewed by international and domestic courts and are implemented by the organisations in both the international and national spheres. In the case of projects, the policies of overlapping institutional frameworks impact the strategies and enactment of interventions in projects and determine the course of action for project execution.

The whole process ultimately leads to implementation at a level with little or no involvement in designing or crafting of these rules or agreements. The project managers and implementers have to enact in accordance to the regimes and guidelines of the states and international organisational sphere. Regardless of the structure and embedded complexity in the interventions, the humanitarian endeavours are often filtered through these political, cultural and religious frames.